Got an itch to get your spring herb garden going?
As winter slowly turns to spring, the days become sunnier and longer.
Now is the time to start herb seedlings indoors so they are ready to put plant when the ground warms up.
Some herbs grow really well from seeds, others like lavender, do not.
Herbs like basil, lemon balm, mint, borage, dill, fennel, and oregano can be started from seeds.
Herbs like sage, lavender and thyme are best started by propagation or purchasing a starter plant.
You don't need a lot of space - herbs can grow well in small spaces or in pots if that is the only option.
Many people start with culinary herbs but don't limit yourself - you can also grow medicinal herbs, flowering and aromatic herbs.
But first, there's a couple things to think about.
Sun and Shade
The important thing to remember about most herbs is that they have Mediterranean origins. They like heat, full sun and well drained soil. Herbs do not like ‘wet feet.’ When you are planning a herb garden, consider the sun’s path. Are the plants going to benefit most from morning light, full sun in the midday or the intense heat and sun in the afternoon.
Just remember that herbs don’t have to have full sun all day. As long as they get 7 or 8 hours, they will be happy. Rosemary grows quite happily against a sunny wall and likes to be out of the wine.
Some herbs will benefit from light to moderate shade. A few will grow better in light shade. Sweet woodruff, for instance, is a low growing garden cover with delicate little white flowers. It does well in light to moderate shade.
Other herbs that like shade include mint, lady’s mantle, arugula, parsley, French sorrel and lung wort. Lung wort is an interesting plant with little white spots on its leaves. It also has pretty purple flowers. In Medieval times it was believed lung wort could help with lung conditions as the leaves resembled lungs.
Soil for the Spring Herb Garden
After sun, you will need to consider the type of soil you have. Although herbs are wild plants and have adapted themselves to growing in poor soil, they will benefit from soil that is a nice mix of peat, humus and sand.
If there is a lot of clay in the soil, it can be hard-pan in the summer so it needs improving. This can be done with a mix of humus, manure and sand. If the soil has too much sand so it doesn't hold enough water, it can be improved with manure.
Tender and Hardy
When considering herbs for your garden, keep in mind that some plants won’t make it through winter, depending which zone one lives in. It’s easy to forget this in the spring, when you’re charmed by a particular plant. It’s almost like a love relationship gone bad. In the spring you fall in love with the plant, take it home and nurture it. By late fall, you’ve forgotten that it needed particular care for winter, maybe extra mulching or maybe it needed to be taken inside.
Lemon thyme is a delicate little bush with beautifully lemon scented leaves which you could use in teas or for cooking. But this herb is not hardy and needs to be taken in for the winter. Bay trees are another tender perennial that need to be taken in for the winter.
When it comes to annuals, basil is a tender plant that people seem to fall in love with every spring. They can’t wait to have a relationship with basil. But basil likes heat and full sun and shouldn’t be put out in the garden until the May long weekend. It is just too cold and the plants you see available in early spring have been grown greenhouse ready. If you put basil in your garden now, don’t be surprised if it does poorly. So remember to put basil out when it’s hot, same as tomatoes, They will both grow well together.
Let’s talk about scents. Love the scent of lemon? You could grow an entire herb garden around citrus scented plants.
Let me give you some examples. The previously mentioned lemon thyme as well as lemon balm, lemon basil, lemon mint, lemon verbena and lemon scented pelargoniums.
If you like mint, you can get a variety of mint herbs like spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, catmint, apple mint, Corsican mint, ginger mint and Eau de cologne mint. Just remember, some mints tend to be invasive so they might be best grow in pots or sink the pot into the ground.
Other herbs have fantastic scents as well. Of course, there’s lavender as well as bergamot, jasmine, honey suckle, sweet violet and sweet myrtle. There are so many wonderful scented herbs.
Tea and Salad
Maybe your passion is drinking tea. You could grow an herb garden around that theme. Or maybe you love salads. You could dedicate a garden to that. Tea and salad. Hmm, interesting combination. These different themes are all wonderful ways to grow herbs.
You could learn more about theme herbs in my upcoming book on Herbal Theme Gardens, currently available as an E-Book. However, I am looking at ways to get it into print soon.
If you want to grow herbs for purely ornamental reasons, there are a variety of herbs that will do just fine with a minimum of attention. Some don’t even mind being stepped on occasionally.
I’m referring to ground covers of the thyme or mint variety. Creeping thyme makes a wonderful ground cover. You could get crimson creeping thyme, which has nice purple flowers or woolly thyme or Corsican mint. These are nice in-between paving stones or maybe edging a patio.
When you’re planting a bed, edge the front of the border with the lower or creeping herbs, then bushy herbs behind and tall herbs in the back. Bushy herbs include lavender, lamb’s ears, lemon balm, lemon thyme, yarrow, sage, rosemary and catmint. The taller herbs include ones like fennel, Echinacea, wormwood, hollyhock.
With a good variety of plants, you will have a nice combination between flowering herbs, silvery herbs, creeping herbs, scented herbs, culinary herbs and medicinal herbs.
Want to learn more about growing herbs? Find out more in the Books/Ebook section